His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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More Human than Others

I believe Jesus Christ was more human than many people are. I’m thinking of those religious zealots who self-righteously try to be more divine than human. These people deny their flawed humanity, and believe they are divinely perfect, or at least closer to perfection than the rest of us slobs slogging it out in the trenches of this fractured, sin-filled life.

However, Jesus embraced his humanity, and seemed to deny his divinity, at least at certain times during his journey on earth. Just look at the most common way He referred to himself: son of man. He wanted us to remember his humanity, not just his divinity.

For me, knowing something about Jesus’ humanity helps me feel closer to him, for He knows what I go through. After all, he was one of us.


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Mom, Dad, God

[Look, something brought you to this blog post. If it was a mistake—sorry. But if you’d like to see something that is probably more worth your time, please check out the blurb about my soon-to-be-published novel on my new website. It’s basically about seeing a different perspective of Jesus, through the eyes of some background characters in the Bible. New website: cjpenn.com]

Are you a parent? Tricky business, that. Not for the faint of heart, they say—that’s a classic understatement.

I’m a father of two sons, who thankfully have survived to be respectable, honorable adults, despite all the mistakes I made in trying to help get them there. But looking back on that journey, though sometimes painful, can also be really interesting.

With only a few minutes of thought, here are some of the traits I think are important to being a parent:

  • Knowing when to let them fall down and skin their knee.
  • Knowing when to let the child lose. Falsely giving a child the impression they can always be a winner by making sure everyone gets a soccer trophy is just setting them up for major problems later, when the truth of life smacks them in the face.
  • Knowing when to hold back and let the child make a mistake. Cliché warning: we learn from our mistakes, hopefully.
  • Knowing when to let the child get a bad grade in a class by not doing their homework for them. That is, knowing when to let the child learn about the consequences of their action, or inaction.
  • Knowing when to keep your mouth shut.
  • And the list goes on.

Few of us parents have all these skills, and the others I can’t think of. But there is one, the only one, who is the perfect parent.

Well, yah, sure … I mean God. But I now ask you to take a look at God with these questions in mind:

  • Is life sometimes really hard for you?
  • Do you wonder why some of your prayers go unanswered?
  • Do you wonder why good people, even God-loving people, die young?
  • Do you wonder, if there is a God, how can he allow all the evil and mayhem that’s consuming the world?

Maybe the answer is partly because God is the perfect parent. He knows when to hold back and not step into our lives, allowing us to make our own mistakes. He knows not to butt in where He’s not invited.

And why would He do this, anyway? Maybe because He’s hoping we will finally realize we just can’t handle this mortal life on our own, and the only way we can cope is to give up trying and turn to Him to help us … turn to Him to love us.

What do you think?


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Another Day, Another … ah Hell

I don’t want to write about it … but I am, compelled by something, maybe someone. Another day, another mass shooting(s). I could probably post this on any random day and it would apply. But today, it feels like the fabric of humanity is ripping apart, or that’s how it feels to me, whatever the fabric of humanity is. In El Paso. And Dayton.

What do I want? Answers? Escape. Escape from the tragedy, the torment, the pain of it all. Today I feel helpless to help—I can’t even help myself. I can’t free myself from that ripping feeling in my gut.

So, quiet place, close eyes, breathe, slowly. Go inside, and look. There’s Jesus—his Spirit within me, always here, always waiting. He smiles—a sad, compassionate smile. He holds out his arms, I fall in, and my soul weeps, his arms wrapping around me, comforting me. And we mourn together. And I feel it—His love that heals wounds, and his peace.

Oh Lord, please help. So many people, so much pain, so many out there, in Texas, in Ohio, hurting, wailing, shattered.

If you’re reading this and you too are hurting, maybe look inside yourself, to your soul, living just below the surface. And more than your soul, you may see His Spirit there, waiting, smiling, maybe even crying, for this hurts him too. And maybe the two of you can hold each other, and cry together, just below the surface, His Spirit and your soul.

And no matter what’s going on elsewhere in the world, in your little world you can have some peace, and love. And if enough of us surround ourselves with the love that comes from Jesus living inside us, it may spread to others. I think that would help.

Will the mass shootings stop? I doubt it. Humanity is too broken. But maybe we aren’t helpless to help, for the help just might already live inside of each of us, waiting for us to look His way.

 

The ways of the world aren’t helping, so maybe it’s time to look beyond the world.


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Independence Day – Are We All Celebrating the Same Thing?

As I begin to celebrate the independence of the United States of American, I wonder… how many of us really know what we’re celebrating? What does this day mean to the different people I see in the store or on the street? For some of us who enjoy the rights and privileges of being US citizens, has this day morphed into just another excuse for a party?

Also, as a nation, how does our condition today compare with what was envisioned 241 years ago, and then codified in our Constitution several years later? What has sociatial evolution, along with the strife that currently chokes many aspects of our lives, done to our countries original values? How far have we drifted from some of the things we should probably be celebrating?

Here are a two things that are different today from what the founders fought for, and died for:

  • Free speech is under attack. 241 years ago, we fought for free speech, not against it.
  • The United States is far from being united—with division, conflicts, and even hate being the norm. Well, there was indeed division 241 years ago, but there were also common goals and ideals that helped keep us together. Maybe we’ve lost that common vision of “United States.”

The shackles on speech, along with our fractured unity has fed the plague of dysfunctional government, fear, mistrust, and more hate. And this all continues feeding upon itself.

So, what’s behind all this? Well, I’ll tell you my opinion. And if you disagree, please, please, please… speak out. Express your opinion, allow my opinion, and in that small way, allow free speech to have a small victory.

Anyway, here it is: at the heart of these problems is arrogance and selfishness. Arrogance is not willing to listen to an opinion different from its own. Arrogance demands that everyone agrees with it, and if you don’t agree, then arrogance will declare you a bigoted idiot. And such idiots should not be allowed to speak—so demands arrogance.

Selfishness is all about self (duh), at the expense of others. This is at the core of the division within the United States. Selfishness, being a sibling of arrogance, abhors the same things that arrogance does, but selfishness suffers in a different way. Selfishness is very weak and fragile. Selfishness cannot listen to opinions other than its own because selfishness is easily offended. Selfishness is the little toddler who has a tantrum when it doesn’t get its way. Selfishness demands safe zones on college campuses so it has a place to be insulated from different ideas that it does not want to hear.

To give strength to those who suffer from selfishness, soothe the angst of those who are arrogant, and re-unite our country, we need humility. Humility will heal the wounds, ease our fears, nourish trust, and give us the courage to let go of “me” and wrap our arms around “us”. And we will again be united.

Humility accepts the rights and opinions of others, whether it agrees with them or not. Humility is willing to listen to other opinions, without getting offended and throwing a tantrum.

Humility does not always require its way. Humility is willing to compromise. In fact, true humility desires compromise. For humility sees that with compromise, all sides win something—there are no losers with compromise, there are no losers with humility. Humility is kind and compassionate and desires that others do not feel the pain of losing. In this way, the only path to civility is walked in the shoes of humility.

Again, please, what do you think? Speech is free… use it. Let us at least be united in this—to willingly allow each other to express our opinions.

On this 241st anniversary of what may be the most amazing event in democratic history, I will humbly pray for humility.

 

“I (may) disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire (or maybe his biographer)


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Trust? I Guess So

Trust is being able to predict and count on another persons response to things that happen. It’s knowing they will be there to hold your hand when a crisis consumes you. It’s knowing they will satisfy their promises and commitments to you. Trust is knowing they will do what you expect and need them to do.

So, whom can I rely on with absolute, pure, undiluted trust? Well, please don’t take this as cynical, but I don’t feel I can trust anyone, not with absolute trust.

Look, as humans we all have weaknesses and flaws. It’s nothing to fret about, it’s just a reality to accept. Our weaknesses and flaws are like pits along the road of our personal journey—sometimes we fall in and can’t get out in time to be there for someone who needs us. Sometimes the pit that holds us back is not a flaw or weakness, but our own personal crisis.

I certainly trust other people. I just accept their human nature and the fact that my trust will not always be supported by their actions. And that’s all okay with me. I try to remember, if someone in my life doesn’t respond as I need them to, as I trust they will, it’s just because they are a flawed human, like me.

Anyway, I then thought about my relationship with God. No flaws. No weaknesses. And His responses to me are predictable as far as my feeble mind can imagine He might respond. I can trust God completely, without any hesitation, and always. And I’m really grateful for that.

How do you feel about trust? What does it mean to you? How does it feel when you can’t trust someone?


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Looking at Love Through a Cardboard Tube

Under weird circumstances I stumbled across these verses in Ephesians: “I pray that you may grasp the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19, abbreviated)

I found myself wondering about the magnitude of Jesus’ love for us. Why does His love “surpass knowledge?” Why is it hard to comprehend the truth and scope of Jesus’ love? This is what I believe:

First, Jesus loves like no other human. For example, my love (being solely human), is marred by my natural human flaws. My love is polluted by my pride and selfishness. Why do I love someone? Well, there is always a reason, such as they are funny, friendly, attractive in some other way, etc. I need a reason… it’s just how my emotions and mind work. It seems harsh to me, but my love is motivated by “what’s in it for me?”

Yet for Jesus, He needs no reason to love. He has no flaws to mar His love for others. He loves because He is the Son of God, and He can do no less than the same as His Father.

Also, Jesus’ love comes from a mixture of his humanity and his divinity. As God, He unconditionally loves. But as human, He loves us other humans with a human intimacy. He’s one of us, without the natural flaws that is. But He knows what it’s like to face our temptations, weaknesses, flaws and problems. He loves with a sympathy that comes from intimacy.

The final reason I can’t comprehend Jesus’ love is that I can only consider His love through the lens of my own humanity. I am only able to see love through my own pride and selfishness. It’s like I’m looking through a cardboard tube of gift wrapping paper at a broad panoramic scene. All I see is what comes through my pretend telescope. I miss everything else in the scene. I think it’s this way when I try to look at and comprehend Jesus’ love. I only see a small piece of a wide and long and high and deep vastness of love.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Maybe we can’t see the extensiveness of Jesus’ love for us, but I pray that we all can at least accept the truth of it.


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Life Without Jesus is a Heart Attack

Everyone deals with stress and anxiety in their own way. And as we all know, there’s plenty of stressful stuff polluting our lives these days. Some people are stronger than others and can deal with stress on their own. I once thought I was one of the strong people. Not anymore.

I now look at some of the crap going on in my life and think, “You know Jesus, if you weren’t here with me right now, I would probably take this stuff too seriously and give myself a heart attack.” One thing Jesus’ presence in my life does for me is, He helps keep my priorities focused on Him, rather than all that meaningless stressful stuff.

How do you handle stress? Alone, or with help?

I thought of this today while reading Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)